Monday, July 8, 2013


Fins of baby sharks.
Near the end of a scenic, somewhat smelly stroll through the fish market atop La Libertad's main pier, we saw something that didn't seem right. Tossed across a wooden table lay a pile of what looked like tiny shark fins. 

Worse, in a 50 gallon drum next to the table, mixed in with discarded fish entrails, we found the detached heads of more than a dozen juvenile Scalloped Hammerhead Sharks, a proposed endangered species.

For the short-sighted fisherman who caught them, these sharks are worth
more dead than alive. Their fins can fetch as much as $700/KG in Asia (though far less locally), and presumably the shark meat was sold as well.

At least one study has shown the true value of sharks when it comes to tourism. In Palau, individual sharks can bring in more than $1 million in tourism- and scuba diving-related revenue. A story in this week's New York Times revealed that perhaps demand in China is waning, a sign of hope for the jagged-toothed predator.

Heads of endangered hammerhead sharks tossed into a 50-gallon drum of fish entrails.
Environmental rant aside, the truth is these fishermen need to feed their families. And until a sustainable profit can be made from these species alive, with benefits reaching the residents of La Libertad, these practices will continue. 

Killing sharks for their fins is a complicated issue that numerous groups and governments are attempting to address. For more information and some interesting shark resources, check out the links below: 
  • This blog post notes some interesting facts about the rapid decline of the Scalloped Hammerhead Shark.
  • Here is an interesting article about the Hammerhead population in Belize
  • A website for global shark conservation
  • Ways to take action to stop shark finning
  • New York Times article on the "Hidden Cost of Shark Fin Soup"
  • A recipe for "imitation" shark fin soup

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